PLANS for less frequent MOT tests have been abandoned by the UK government in favour of improved annual checks after ministers found that faults were missed in one in four cars.
The move received a widespread welcome from the motor industry and road safety groups, which had feared more deaths if initial MOTs were delayed until after four rather than three years, with subsequent checks being made every two years instead of annually.
The original plan, announced by previous transport secretary Philip Hammond, was seen as part of his attempt to end the “war on the motorist”, but it attracted little support and was opposed by the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives’ coalition partners.
The Automobile Association, Britain’s biggest motoring group, applauded the decision by Justine Greening, his successor, as a “victory for common sense”.
Ms Greening said she would “shine a light” on the performance of MOT testing stations, by publishing information about whether they were complying with test standards, and step up “mystery shopper” checks. She also said a TripAdvisor-type website was being considered for drivers to give feedback on garages, like hotel and restaurant review websites.
MOT certificates would also be changed to show the last three years’ mileage information, in an attempt to crack down on “clocking” – where mileometers on second-hand cars are altered to show a lower reading.
The moves follow research by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, which found that nearly 28 per cent of vehicles tested in 2010-11 had defects which were missed or wrongly assessed. It also showed that the roadworthiness of one in eight cars had been incorrectly assessed by MOT centres.
Ms Greening said: “I want each motorist to be confident that a visit to the garage ends with their car repaired to a high standard by reputable mechanics rather than uncertainty about cost and the quality of service.
“Giving drivers the very best information about garage performance is absolutely key to achieving this goal. It means that responsible garages will be well placed to reap the commercial benefits of transparency. Garages where performance is not up to scratch will find themselves under pressure to do more for their customers.”
AA president Edmund King said: “The AA is delighted the Transport Secretary has listened to the views of AA members who support the annual frequency of the MOT test.
“We also welcome the decision to include mileage information on MOT certificates, which will help people buying used cars understand their history.”
Road safety campaigners Brake said the MOT change would have caused 250 more deaths and 2,200 more serious injuries a year.
Deputy chief executive Julie Townsend said: “The annual MOT is vital to road safety, and the government has recognised that reducing its frequency would have inevitably meant more lives needlessly lost and more terrible injuries.”
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Drivers will be shocked at how many defects go undetected. Cars might be increasingly sophisticated, but many of the MOT checks are basic, relating to things like lights, tyres and brakes.”